Kids enjoying sport brings benefits to all

- Advertisement -

‘You, Vaughan, you’ll be captain of one team and you, Muncey, you’ll be captain of the other.’ Depending on the day, the weather and the sports teacher’s inclination, it might be that he would ask another two lads to be ‘captains’ that day. But the principle was always the same.

Two boys would be chosen and then, one by one, they would pick players from the huddled masses, hating the selection process and knowing that if you were one of the last two to be selected, you really were at the basement level of humanity.

Thankfully, I was quite good at football; not so good at cricket; better at rugby than basketball and very good at swimming (but then we didn’t have selection procedures for the swimming team – but more of that later).

I mention this because it must have been amazingly painful, when you’re only 12 years old, to know that as your two captains of the day select you, one at a time, eventually they will be left with the also-ran; the few unathletic students nobody wants on their team.

‘Oo-er . . . so we’re down to Jenkins, Sqencer (Spencer was called that because he couldn’t spell and actually failed an exam by minus one per cent because he wrote ‘Sqencer’ at the top of the page) and Williams.’

Williams and Spencer ended up on my team. The portly Jenkins, whose jowls would have won prizes in some other culture, went on to Muncey’s team.

As for me? – Well, Paul Vaughan was my friend, wasn’t he, so he called me into his side round about the third time of asking. I wasn’t that good, but I was at least as good of many of the rest.

Looking back on it I can’t, for the life of me, understand why we put up with such a terribly, terribly demeaning way of choosing two teams.

And the sad thing is that when I first came to Jersey and took Thursday school sports days I was just as bad as all of those teachers who had brought humiliation on Spencer, Williams and other kids who just didn’t ‘do’ sport. Overweight, unfit or simply not interested in team games they were put through the same kind of mill I had endured so, rather than defeat the system, I set about perpetuating it.

Looking back on it now I wonder how much unnecessary pain sports teachers cause by asking kids to choose other kids for the team games they played in.

Potentially there was a great deal of hardship to endure, especially when the captain for the day asked the advice of the first person he chose for his team.

‘How about Jacklin? He’s not very fast but he’s better than Brown who’s rubbish when it comes to tackling anyone . . .’ and so on.

Thankfully, days like these are well and truly over and PE teachers seem more understanding of the students they have in front of them now.

And society as a whole now respects not only the importance of sport but also the importance of the ethical issues sport promotes.

Only a fortnight ago the media were praising cricket for the team bonding it can lead to while in Jersey there are several initiatives currently in progress to take youngsters off the streets and to turn them, one by one, into good citizens.

This is nothing to do with kids who will, perhaps, one day play professional football for Man Utd or Chelsea.

Instead the likes of David Kennedy are taking kids, many of them formerly aimless, giving them a football, and giving them a reason to play.

Having spoken to Dave only six days ago I know that he and ESC plus other sporting bodies are going out of their way to bring sport/dance/gymnastics into schoolkids’ lives away from school. And 13 days ago in the JEP Jon Welsh, Junior League chairman of the Dandara Jersey Football Combination wrote: ‘Over 1,000 boys play regular football on first-class facilities and under the guidance of qualified coaches.

‘The large majority of clubs running junior teams are FA charter standard, which is the kite mark of good practice.

‘At the time of writing we are working with the JFA and Local Football Partnership (which comprises representatives from ESC, JFA, referees, schools and the FA) . . . to offer competitive football in a safe environment to assist the development of our young players . . .’

Without people like Jon and David and many others with a similar philosophy of life, a fair chunk of those 1,000 players would be mooching around the Weighbridge or somewhere similar of an evening instead of playing sport. And remember, you don’t have to be brilliant if what you do is what you like, even if you’ll never have the most – ahem – athletic of bodies.

Dave Kennedy believes that structured sport, outside school hours, is saving this Island a fortune because it keeps schoolchildren of all ages, and of either gender, away from trouble. And he is right, of course.

All of which is at least one generation away from my own schooldays when Alf (our PE teacher) would finish his cigarette and call us over towards him before we’d get stuck into our game of footie.

As for teaching us how to play the game? – Well, Mr Bowler taught me how to take a corner but, looking back on it, that’s about it, really. But I WAS quite good at swimming . . . So much so that, for a year, I was a lifeguard at Warrington Swimming Pool.

It was a pretty mundane kind of job: ‘don’t do that, you’ll hurt yourself. Don’t run and NO bombing! . . . you get my drift.

However, the one individual I remember most vividly is the child who couldn’t swim but insisted on putting his inflatable armbands on his ankles.

‘Don’t do that,’ I said, as he jumped into the deep end. ‘It’s not very clever to put arm bands around your ankles.’

It was not long, of course, before we needed to pull him out. His feet, you see, were at the top of the swimming pool and his head dragging along about 4 ft 6 in beneath him.

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Latest Stories

- Advertisement -

UK News

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Read the latest free supplements

Read the Town Crier, Le Rocher and a whole host of other subjects like mortgage advice, business, cycling, travel and property.